To stay in business, restaurants and other food establishments must “pass the test” of food safety inspectors. While food safety guidelines for businesses differ somewhat from those for home kitchens, the recommendations are similar. Think about the everyday practices in your kitchen. How would your kitchen measure up to a food safety test? Consider this Q and A.

How long do you leave perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products and leftovers at room temperature? Bacteria can grow within two hours in this type food unless refrigerated, or within one hour if the temperature is over 90 degrees. So, chill as soon as possible, but absolutely before two hours. If you have a large quantity of a food or a large food item, divide it and put into several small containers so it will cool more quickly and you can refrigerate it sooner.

What is the temperature of your home refrigerator? Your refrigerator should be between 40 and 32 degrees F. Your freezer should be at 0 degrees. Use an appliance thermometer to make sure your refrigerator and freezer are cold enough. Don’t have one? Contact your local Extension office, 723-5141 to receive one free of charge.

To help consumers know how long specific foods can be stored, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute developed a FoodKeeper app. Go to www.foodsafety.gov/keep/foodkeeperapp. You can access the app through your web browser, Android, or Apple device.

How do you thaw meat, poultry and seafood? On the counter, in the refrigerator, or in the microwave? In the refrigerator is the safest way as foods stay at a constant, safe temperature of 40 degrees F or below, however thawing in the microwave is also acceptable. Follow the directions provided in your microwave owner’s manual. Once thawed in the microwave cook immediately.

Cold water thawing is another safe and fast method to thaw meat, poultry and seafood, but it requires more time and attention as the water needs to be changed every 30 minutes.

How many days do you usually store perishable leftovers in the refrigerator? Do you wait until you see signs of spoilage? No, leftovers should be eaten or frozen within 3 to 4 days.

Let’s talk cutting boards. If you’re cutting raw meat or poultry, what do you do before cutting fresh produce or bread at the same meal? USDA recommends consumers use one cutting board for fresh produce and bread and another for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. When cutting boards become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves, it is best to throw them away and replace with new ones.

How do you determine whether you have cooked meat, poultry and seafood to a safe temperature? Do you cut into it with a knife and check the color? You can’t tell whether meat, poultry or seafood is safe to eat by looking at it. They can be pink even when they have reached a safe internal temperature, or show no signs of a pink color and have not reached a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria. The only way to know for certain is to use a food thermometer. Beef, pork, veal and lamb steaks, chops and roasts should reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Ground meats, 160 degrees, all poultry, 165 degrees and fish, 145 degrees. Contact the Extension office for a free, instant read food thermometer.

Which of these describes your handwashing when preparing food? (A) “I wash my hands before preparing food,” or (B) “I wash my hands before, during and after preparing food,” or (C) “I don’t worry about it.” The correct answer….. B. There is a right way to wash your hands for safe food handling. Go to www.Foodsafety.gov to learn simple, but vital handwashing steps. All you need is warm, running water, soap, and scrubbing power!

When cooking raw poultry/meat, what do you do? Years ago, we were told to rinse meat before cooking it, but today’s recommendation does not include this step. Food safety experts found that cooks were more likely to spread bacteria when rinsing meat by splashing contaminated water on the sink and countertops. Cook poultry and meat without rinsing them. 

Before eating melons, what is the first thing you do? Wash them! Wash all fruits and vegetables under cold, running water while scrubbing with a vegetable brush. Then dry with a clean paper towel to reduce any surface bacteria. Do this even if you’re going to remove the peeling. Bacteria can spread from the outside to the inside when produce are cut or peeled.

So, how did your kitchen score? The USDA, Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) work together to provide food safety guidelines for use in the home. Visit their websites to learn other ways to keep your home and family safe from food-borne illnesses.

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